Manchester University censored the title of a Holocaust survivor’s criticism of Israel and insisted that her campus talk be recorded, after Israeli diplomats said its billing amounted to antisemitic hate speech.
“These events will cause Jewish students to feel uncomfortable on campus and that they are being targeted and harassed for their identity as a people and connection to the Jewish state of Israel.”
—Michael Freeman, Israeli embassy’s counsellor for civil society affairs
“In educational institutions there shouldn’t be any sort of lobbying from foreign governments. You couldn’t imagine [the administration] sitting down with the Saudi embassy for an event about what’s going on in Yemen.”
— Huda Ammori, event organizer
Marika Sherwood, a Jewish survivor of the Budapest ghetto, was due to give a talk in March about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, headlined: “You’re doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to me.”
But after a visit by Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador, and his civil affairs attaché, university officials banned organizers from using the “unduly provocative” title and set out a range of conditions before it could go ahead.
Students had booked Sherwood to speak as part of Israeli Apartheid Week, a series of events organised by the university’s student committee of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
The Israeli diplomats visited Manchester on February 22 and met the university’s head of student experience, Tim Westlake. Later that day in an email, Michael Freeman, the embassy’s counsellor for civil society affairs, wrote to Westlake and thanked him for discussing the “difficult issues that we face,” including the “offensively titled” Israeli Apartheid Week.